Kuudes designed Supercell’s coding school –cooperation between different design disciplines the secret weapon

One of the biggest headlines at the Slush startup event this year was the launch of Hive, a new coding school set to open in Helsinki next year. The venture is kicked off by the mobile gaming giant Supercell, but several industry leaders from Zalando to Elisa have already joined the mission. The revolutionary school will not have any lectures or teachers – the students will learn in peer-to-peer real-life projects.

Kuudes, the insight, strategy and design agency based in Helsinki and Stockholm, has worked with Hive for the past year. Supercell chose Kuudes as their design partner to create the brand, web service, visual identity and space for the school. To answer to the needs of the industry and future students, Kuudes started their work by interviewing potential applicants and opinion leaders in the industry. That means one team has been responsible for creating the whole Hive brand experience in all channels from digital to physical.

We interviewed three Kuudes team members from different design disciplines: service designer Susanna Ollila, graphic designer Tony Eräpuro and interior architect Juha Koskinen give a sneak peek behind the scenes of the design process. How can you make designers from different fields play smoothly together?

The myth busters of coding

There is a great shortage of coders in Finland. In order to fill the gap, Hive must find creative problem solvers and help them understand what you can do with coding. The potential is huge, we just need to uncover it. Still, many see coding as a solitary profession that you do sat at your computer.

“As we discussed with ordinary high school students about their career dreams, we observed that young people really don’t know what coding as a profession is. They saw it mainly as designing mobile games. We also benchmarked different schools in the field and noticed that they often are technical, cold and masculine when it comes to branding. We realised that we need to do things very differently in order to bring diversity into the coding world”, summarises Susanna Ollila. 

Based on this insight, Kuudes carved out a distinguishable, strong brand position for Hive that became the basis for designers to create its visual identity, digital services and the school space. The common thread has lasted from start to finish.

“The insight work gave us a clear idea about where to head to. The conclusions can be seen in the results exceptionally clearly,” says interior architect Juha Koskinen.

Also the name, Hive, was developed by Kuudes. Out of dozens of candidates, the team searched for a choice that fits both Finnish and international mouths. Literally meaning “a place in which people are busily occupied”, the name fits the active peer-to-peer coding community perfectly.

Inspired by pop culture

Applications for the school open in January 2019. At the start, 18–30-year-olds can join. “It’s the best when you design for young people – then you have permission to do something beyond the ordinary. We decided to leave out science fiction clichés and “techy” elements, and instead bring illustrations, different typefaces and lots of colour. The identity fits all tastes – just like the Beatles do in music,” says Tony Eräpuro, the designer behind the visual identity.

In the visual identity, you can see references to pop culture. The strong geometric elements of the logo draw inspiration from historical symbolism and hieroglyphs all the way to modern-day emojis. It’s meant to be recognisable but insightful. At the moment, Kuudes is working on bringing the brand to the study spaces.

“We’ve had good starting points for the spatial design because the brand position is crystal clear and the visual identity supports it. The space must look like Hive, even without the logos. Adapting the whimsical aspects of the brand to Finnish building culture has certainly been interesting,” laughs Koskinen, adding that challenging the industry norms has required a lot of determination and persistent reasoning.

Embracing the digital

“The Hive web service plays a major role since the application process for the school takes place online. It’s the main channel for Hive to change the old conceptions of coding so the concept of the web service is content-first,” Ollila states.

It was natural to invest in the digital presence of Hive. Kuudes’ digital designers were responsible for designing the website and Siili carried out the technical execution. The development work is still underway.

Teamwork is dreamwork

All three agree that the most significant factor in the success of the project is the joint passion of the Kuudes and Supercell teams to create something new.

“The group had a common drive that we are really going to make this happen, now. We’ve had a clear mission to change people’s way of thinking,” Ollila adds.

Juha Koskinen concurs: “The more the client trusts the agency, the better result they get. Our client has been brave enough to embrace some pretty wild ideas.”

The school has now been launched but the work between Kuudes and Supercell continues. Now it’s time to fulfil the promise and respond to huge expectations. The digital channels are developing as the opening of applications approaches, as well as the renovation of a former factory on Haapaniemenkatu, Helsinki. The brand-new coding school opens its doors on the building’s top floor in autumn 2019.

Read more about the project here.